Egypt has preserved many ancient artifacts narrating the long history of the great civilization once existing on this territory. This is showcased the best in its pottery, decorated with line drawings, geometrical shapes and enigmatic scenes of hunting or everyday life in old times. However, the vessels created for the daily usage are also of a great value for scientists to explore the distant past. Today pottery is not as popular as it used to be but it’s not less imposing and spellbinding.
Ancient Egypt was one of the first civilizations to create high quality pottery. Scholars believe they began working out the clay in the regions of Naqada and Al-Badari during the pre-dynastic era, around 3800-3400 BC. Egyptians greatly believed in the power of the potter, so they depicted their Nile Deity, “Father of Gods” Khnum creating children of clay.
At the very start the pottery made of reddish brown clay called Nile silt served practical purposes –to preserve grains, foods and liquids, for instance. Poor people would you use the silt to mold toys. The early pottery samples had little or no decoration. Creation of decorative pottery made of clay and lime started from the Naqada period. Egyptians began ornamenting it with drawings of patterns, boats, animals and human figures. Gradually talented artisans excelled in this craft turning it into magnificent artwork.
Pottery continued flourishing in Coptic and Islamic periods. Coptic monks manufactured flasks, pots and dishes adorning them with crosses, Coptic words, animals, images of monks and Christian saints; while Islamic potters decorated the vessels, candelabras, lamps and vases with Arabic writing and ornaments.
Contemporary Egyptian artisans attempt to revive the once perfected art of pottery. The most outstanding of them is Nabil Darwish (1936-2002), who dedicated his whole life to studying the ancient and Islamic pottery in order to create his unique collection.
Ancient potters inspired not only Egyptian artists. In the 1980’s a Swiss-born earthenware master Evelyne Porret and her husband Michel Pastore moved to small lakeside Tunis Village in Fayoum Oasis, where they built a house and a pottery workshop. Porret started teaching local children how to form beautiful-shaped vessels out of shapeless mud. Later some of her students opened their own studios making this picturesque countryside widely known for its mind-blowing pottery.